* 8:01 pm - Not unexpected. Secretary of State Jesse White refused to certify Roland Burris’ appointment, so he’s running to the courts…
U.S. Senate appointee Roland Burris has asked [the Illinois Supreme Court] to force Secretary of State Jesse White to certify his appointment to Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. […]
It’s the start of legal wrangling over the seat that embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich filled by naming Burris.
The move comes after White rejected Blagojevich’s proclamation naming Burris to the Senate.
“There is a great and urgent interest of the people of the state of Illinois in being fully represented before the United States Senate,” the Burris petition said.
Burris maintained state law “imposes an unconditional obligation on the secretary of state” to perform “merely a ministerial” role that does not leave “any discretion whatsoever” to block or impede the action.
…Eric Ueland, a parliamentary and legal expert on the Senate, said yesterday that precedent has allowed the Senate to conduct investigations of troubling elections. This would make the matter not “justiciable,” Ueland said, keeping courts out of the dispute because the Senate has proper jurisdiction.
Forget all the bloviating about whether the Senate does or does not have jurisdiction here. A very strong case can be made by the Senate.
Senate officials tell Politico that if presented with the appointment, they are likely to give the Rules Committee 90 days to determine the propriety of the appointment by looking into such issues as whether Blagojevich received anything in return for it.
“A motion to refer credentials to the committee has the effect of delaying seating,” a Senate Democratic aide said. “The motion is debatable and amendable.”
Another official explained: “That buys us 90 days.”
That should be enough so the senators won’t have to act to prevent Burris from joining the chamber. Blagojevich’s defiance inflamed Illinois legislators, speeding up the impeachment process.
Roland Burris is about to hit a major brick wall.
Like I said, forget all the bloviating. The Senate has significant power here.
A bill to hold a special election to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat may be getting another life in Springfield.
The measure, which had been shelved by House Speaker Michael Madigan, on Wednesday was quietly posted for a committee hearing next Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 7. […]
If a special-election bill were to pass, it could effectively nullify the appointment, or restrict it to the period until a special election could be held.
First of all, any attempt to nullify the appointment could be met with a veto. Moot point.
And even if it did become law, Burris could argue in court that it’s an ex post facto attempt to nullify his appointment.
What a mess.
Also, the only bill posted for the House Elections & Campaign Reform Committee is SB761. The measure, sponsored by Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) is not a special elections bill. The underlying bill is a vehicle, and the Senate amendment deals with constitutional amendment balloting.
The House could add a special election amendment to it. I couldn’t reach Fritchey, but it’s New Year’s Eve, so I kinda figured I wouldn’t get ahold of him.
* Also, the committee was canceled after the Crain’s article appeared. Nothing will happen now.
Here’s the original statement from House Speaker Madigan’s spokesman about the bill postings for next week…
Several Illinois House committees are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to accommodate members with unfinished business in the current GA in the event the full House returns to Springfield.
The decision to return will be determined following the Monday court hearing on the release of the tapes in the Governor’s criminal case
Should the House not return, the committees will be rescheduled for the days already set for the following week.
The other committees weren’t canceled, just Elections. Hmmm.
The ILGOP responds…
“Once again Blagojevich Democrats failed the people of Illinois.
“It appears Rod Blagojevich’s campaign co-chairman Mike Madigan would rather allow this senate appointment to stand instead of doing what’s right and giving the voters what they want.
“Blagojevich Democrats could have solved this problem 15 days ago by passing a special election, instead they refused to strip the Governor of his appointment powers and contributed to yet another constitutional crisis for Illinois.”
* A commenter posted this the other day. Maybe Roland Burris believes this is what really happened…
THE REAL, UNEDITED FBI SURVEILLANCE TRANSCRIPT*
(Begin recording 534)
(Assistant) Hey, how’s everything going?
RRB: Oh you know, it never stops, my hard work trying to find sources of revenue to plug the holes in that horrible budget the fine but misguided people of the Illinois General Assembly gave me. By not taking my guidance on the GRT, they’ve overspent us into a terrible hole.
(Assistant) That’s so sad. If only they’d listened to you, we’d have a surplus right now…
RRB: I KNOW! Oh, well, they are the people’s elected representatives and I must, as you know, honor their commitments, misguided as they may be. Fine, decent folks they are, to be sure, but just not as far-sighted as we are. Anyhow, I came up with a little project for the holidays coming up. You know that reclining office chair that Senator Obama used to sit in?
(Assistant) Yeah, those are really nice chairs.
RRB: Yeah, plush. When you jump into it, it’s so soft it’s like I could parachute into it. Might have some of that space-age foam in it…
(Assistant) …that’s good for a bad back, I hear…
RBB: … yeah, or something. And the leather is first-rate. If nobody wants it, I’m gonna keep it for myself, it’s worth it. Well, see, Obama doesn’t need the chair in Washington, the new guy in Springfield will probably want a new chair too, so I figured, it’s a pretty famous chair, and people LOVE to buy souvenir stuff, you know. Jim Thompson told me, collecting antiques is BIG money. So, I thought we could…
(Assistant) …Sell the chair?
RRB: …yeah, sell this actual chair, like in an auction, on ebay or something, or let that fine Gianoullias boy auction it for us, I think he does that stuff, and send the money to the general revenue fund. I’m not gonna give it up for (REDACTED) nothing, though. It’s a valuable thing. We could get, I dunno, a couple thousand for it. At least. That’s just a spit in the ocean, I know, it’s not the cure for cancer or anything…
(Assistant) How’s that project coming, by the way? Got the test tubes I sent over?
RRB: Oh, well, you know, if I had a little more research money to throw at it, I think we’d turn the corner on it finally, this stem-cell thing I’m playing with I feel certain is the answer… but wouldn’t you know it, the money’s tied up in building excess hospitals to treat symptoms instead of more research for the cure… I wish we could do something about that…
(Assistant) I’ll see what I can do… anyhow, this chair of Obama’s?
RRB: Yes, I’ve got this thing here in the rec room, and it’s (REDACTED) golden: hardly worn, I just checked it over and took some pictures of it for the ebay page. I think a lot of people would be interested in having it.
(Assistant) We should advertise.
RRB: Well, not if that costs money, it would reduce the amount we send to the people for that budget gap. Maybe we can start the ball rolling by making a few calls and let word of mouth do the advertising. If we can get a couple of rich folks into a bidding war against each other, this seat will skyrocket. The people deserve the most I can raise for them.
(Assistant) Can’t argue with that. Let me make some calls.
RBB: Call up some of his friends and co-workers: I bet they’d like to buy it and surprise him with it or something. Hey, while I got you on the phone, what about the Tribune thing?
(Assistant) They are being sticklers about the issue: they say the boy can’t throw the Sunday edition far enough to hit the front door stoop, you’re going to have to walk out there and pick it up off the walk like everybody else does.
RBB: Oh darn, when he does that, the sudoku puzzle gets all soggy in bad weather. Patti loves to do those while I take my morning run. Do you think if they made the paper lighter, the kid could throw it a little farther?
(Assistant) Like what, you mean, leave parts of it out?
RBB: Why not? I don’t really need the editorials or the sports sections, I already know everybody loves me..
RBB: …and I know everything about the Cubs…
(Voice of Gubernatorial Spouse A in background): Great idea, we don’t need the (redacted) Cubs scores, we get ‘em on the radio, and get rid of that editorial (redacted), I just want my sudoku puzzle!
RBB: Ain’t she a treasure? (yelling) Thanks, Hon! (quietly) See, I think that’s a compromise we can all (redacted) live with.
(Assistant) I’ll get right on it, may have to go over the circulation manager’s head tho’.
RBB: Whatever you do, be sure to always be polite and gracious about it, and be diplomatic: that’s what I learned from my years as a politician.
(Assistant) I’ll just ask myself, “what would the boss do in this situation”, and I know it will be the right thing.
RBB: You’re too kind. Stick with me, and great things will come your way.
(end of recording 534)
*-according to Rod Blagojevich and Ed Genson
* This is a fresh Blagojevich/Burris open thread. Don’t go over the top and get all goofy, since I won’t be monitoring the thread very closely. Thanks.
* THIS JUST IN: The U.S. attorney’s office today asked a federal judge for an extra three months to formally indict Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his former chief of staff… The move by U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald’s office was expected because the deadline for handing up an indictment had been set for Jan. 7. The extension would give them until April 7… A hearing on the extension request is expected to be held Monday. [Defense attorneys are not opposing the motion.]
* THIS JUST IN: 11:23 am - Gov. Rod Blagojevich has formally submitted a proclamation to the US Senate appointing Roland Burris. The proclamation is not co-signed by Secretary of State Jesse White, per Senate requirements, so this is just the first legalistic step in the dance.
Genson’s protestations have mostly fallen on deaf ears, particularly with the Illinois House’s impeachment committee. The committee has shot down his objections time and time again in a clear attempt to make sure Genson knows he is not in a courtroom and has few, if any, legal legs to stand on.
Genson often hasn’t helped himself or his client. He got off on the wrong foot in his first appearance before the committee by demanding the immediate removal of three committee members. Genson claimed their statements from earlier in the week showed they had already made up their minds about the governor. The request was rejected out of hand by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who chairs the special impeachment committee.
Truth be told, there are few if any members in the entire House who have never said a prejudicial word about the governor. But the committee is not a jury, so their personal beliefs about the governor’s alleged guilt don’t matter. Genson’s motion had no hope of success.
Actually, that pretty much sums up Genson’s current situation. No hope.
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform today launched a new Web site, Boot Blago:
Removing Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office will not be enough to end the culture of corruption. We have to reform the laws that now allow special interests to give unlimited amounts of money to campaigns and bring much more sunshine into the operations of state and local governments.
Why do politicians who are accused of corruption think they can produce a list of accomplishments and it will make things all better? Rod, if there was a recall vote in Illinois, you would see how much you’re loved.
* Roland Burris might add new honor on his tombstone: U.S. senator
Governor’s pick to replace Obama has statewide recognition and sensible reputation
State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) vigorously criticized Blagojevich for making any appointment but called Burris a “fairly safe choice” for the governor. “I’m not sure he’d be my choice, but maybe he would be,” Lang said.
Burris denied any connection to the charges against Blagojevich, and critics from Obama on down were careful to speak respectfully of him while lambasting his appointment.
“I am not tainted by this appointment,” Burris said during an interview on CNN. “I have done no wrong and they’re going to deny the people of Illinois a qualified person.”
A check of state campaign finance reports finds Burris donated almost $20,300 to Blagojevich’s campaign since 2002, either personally or through law firms.
On Tuesday, Republicans chastised Democrats for missing the opportunity to stop the governor.
“We should have never allowed the situation to get to this point,” said House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego. Cross said when he first heard word the governor was going ahead with an appointment he thought it was “some sick, wacky rumor on the Internet.”
But a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said there are no regrets and that the special election was too costly and wouldn’t have produced a new senator until the summer.
With two political forces already lining up to say they won’t cooperate with Roland Burris’ appointment as U.S. Senator, what happens next has the potential to turn into a U.S. Constitutional legal battle, with several experts saying the law is on Burris’ side.
Burris faces two hurdles. First, the state of Illinois, through Secretary of State Jesse White, must certify that an appointment has been made, said Joe Shoemaker, spokesman for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. White said Tuesday he will not certify the appointment.
But White’s certification is mostly a ministerial function, noted Dean Harold Krent of the IIT Chicago Kent College of Law.
“Here, it seems like there is no ground not to certify except for his (White’s) own discretion that there is a cloud” over Blagojevich, said Krent. “It’s probably unlawful” not to certify, he added.
Next, the U.S. Senate must formally receive the appointment, said Shoemaker. The Senate can make a motion to not seat pending an investigation if they believe there are questions of impropriety, he added.
Gov. Blagojevich has tried filling Illinois’ vacant U.S. Senate seat, but there are strong indications his appointee, Roland Burris, may never get to sit in the chair.
Top Senate Democrats are contemplating a strategy of running out the clock on Blagojevich. They seem primed to let Illinois lawmakers drive Blagojevich from office, then choose between two competing U.S. Senate nominees: Burris and whomever Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn might pick if the impeachment drive is successful.
“Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement.
“This is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat,” Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. “Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. [Rod] Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois.”
Still, it is not clear that the Senate has the legal authority to block a fully qualified appointee. While Blagojevich is facing impeachment hearings in the General Assembly, he remains governor, and only the governor is allowed to appoint Barack Obama’s successor to the Senate, according to Illinois law.
The U.S. Supreme Court in the past has said the Senate and House cannot refuse to seat new members who meet all the qualifications for office. In 1969, it rebuked the House for refusing to seat Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a Democrat from New York who was re-elected despite being accused of ethical lapses.
“The Constitution does not vest in the Congress a discretionary power to deny membership by majority vote,” said Chief Justice Earl Warren.
However, this is not about Roland. This is about Rod Who Won’t Leave The Building. So, instead of covering the war in Gaza, reporters will go gaga over the three-ring circus in Chicago. I say three rings because Blago’s weird news conference got even stranger when he and Burris trotted out Bobby Rush, the Black Panther-turned-congressman, to play the race card. That’s what desperate politicians like Blago often do at about the time the fat lady is warming up her pipes in the dressing room.
You see Blago bouncing around at that press conference, smirking and cracking wise about enjoying the limelight these past few weeks, and you think:
This guy runs on spite.
You think he cares if he’s casting a cloud over the Obama inauguration, if he’s turning Illinois politics into a national punchline? Please. He’s gonna fight-fight-fight, and if you don’t like it, tough (bleep).
When Roland Burris first tossed his hat into the pick-me-Blago ring, I thought, oh yeah, I remember him. Didn’t he lose the Senate primary to Paul Simon about a quarter-century ago? Didn’t he also lose primaries for governor and mayor?
I didn’t think Burris actually had a shot. But then again, how many of the other names that had been bandied about actually wanted Blago’s endorsement at this point? It’s like an ex-husband telling the former wife how she should redecorate the house, even as he’s packing his boxes to leave. Why should we listen to THAT guy?
At least I wasn’t alone in forgetting rule No. 1 with Rod Blagojevich: Never underestimate the man’s sheer gall.
Forget that nonsense about this being his duty. He loved it.
This time, though, there was no secret about the governor’s accomplice.
Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris wore an ear-to-ear grin to demonstrate how eager he was to assist Blagojevich in his latest outrage, gladly accepting this vote of confidence from a man he had dismissed as “incapacitated” two weeks earlier.
If the overeager Burris wanted to preserve his reputation as an “honorable man” untainted by Illinois politics, he should have done the honorable thing and stayed out of this. But his ego was too big for that.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate creates a split among Illinois’ top black officials.
The appointment pits the state’s top elected official, Secretary of State Jesse White, against its one-time highest black office holder, former Attorney General Roland Burris.
Further complicating the matter, the appointment involves the former seat of Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected president. Both Obama and White were careful to praise Burris in opposing his selection by Blagojevich, who’s accused of earlier trying to sell the seat for personal gain.
The appointment divided black lawmakers, although they praised Burris as honest and capable.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) appeared with Burris and Blagojevich at their press conference Tuesday and said “my prayers had been answered” by the governor’s decision. It is imperative that President-elect Barack Obama’s replacement be African-American, he said. He urged people not to “hang or lynch” Burris simply because he had been appointed by Blagojevich.
Rep. David Miller (D-Lynwood), a friend of Burris, and Rep. William Davis (D-Homewood) said that if Burris can survive the scrutiny to which he will surely be subjected then he should become the state’s next senator. Even so, Davis, once a staffer for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-2nd), said he would have preferred to see his former boss in the seat.
Jackson’s office said he had no comment on the appointment.
Rep. Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields) said he agreed with Secretary of State Jesse White (D-Chicago) that “any appointment has a taint” and worried that Burris’ acceptance could “sully the legacy of our former attorney general.” But he said there was nothing the Legislature could do.
Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) waffled when asked for her view on the Burris appointment.
“This is so difficult,” she said. “This is really a double-edged sword.”
These are dire times. The National and state unemployment rates are on the rise. Home values continue to fall. We’re facing crisis after crisis. The state needs someone who’s going to work hard and advocate for its residents. Who cares if that person is purple?
Race can blind people. We all know that. But it still can be shocking to see that blindness in action. Could anything be more alarming than Rep. Bobby Rush, at Tuesday’s instantly infamous press conference, thanking God for the appointment of former attorney general Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat, merely because of Burris’ race? Rush said that having a black in the Senate trumps all considerations over the tainted process. He actually said that anyone who opposes this appointment — and many do — is trying to “lynch” a man who “has not had one iota of taint on his record of public service.”
“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy,” said President-elect Obama.
Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) would like to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. The appointment was dangled before him last Wednesday. He turned it down. We discussed why when we talked Tuesday night, hours after a defiant Gov. Blagojevich, facing impeachment for, among other charges, trying to sell the Obama seat, tapped former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for the spot, touching off a racially inflammatory firestorm.
Davis, speaking on the phone from Chicago, said he met with Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. last Wednesday morning. The two met in Davis’ Chicago office. Davis said he was told “the governor would like to appoint me to the vacant spot.” After Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, Davis, who sought the appointment from him when he thought Blagojevich was playing it straight, said he would not take the job if offered.
One senate hopeful from Illinois is condemning Governor Rod Blagojevich for naming his pick to the U.S. Senate today. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky was one of the first to publicly express her interest in replacing Barack Obama in the senate. She says she’s puzzled by the governor’s logic in making the appointment.
SCHAKOWSKY: I think this is going to create, actually, more controversy around the governor and I don’t think it’s going to be widely accepted.
* 3:59 pm - OK, that’s it for me. Check the news feeds. I’ll leave comments open for the rest of the night. Heading back to the beach, I think.
* 3:53 pm - The governor’s chief legal counsel has resigned…
The Blagojevich administration’s top lawyer, William J. Quinlan, resigned today — the same day that the governor announced he’s decided to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.
“Today, I have decided to resign my position as General Counsel and return to private practice,” Quinlan wrote in a memo to his staff.
The memo, a copy of which was obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, made only a passing reference to Blagojevich’s Dec. 9 arrest on corruption charges.
“We should not let recent events diminish the pride in our accomplishments or the commitment to public service with which we approach our job each day,” he wrote. “The state of Illinois is a great place to live and work. The opportunity to serve its citizens is truly an honor.”
“He expressed confidence in his ability to have the trust of people to the extent that he could not only do a good job, but that he also could help restore trust,” Davis said.
“He sort of indicated that with all his years of statewide service, a lot of people knew Roland Burris, and knew what Roland Burris stood for, and knew that he had a record of working with all different kinds of people,” Davis said. […]
“I knew how much time one would need to spend defending the decision. I didn’t want to spend so much of my time dealing with that,” Davis said.
“He had a slightly different perspective,” Davis continued. “He was willing to go through it. I was not.”
* I didn’t notice (the sound was off on the TV I was watching) that both Blagojevich and Rush used the word “lynch” in their remarks…
Rush asked his audience “not to hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointor.”
“There are no African-Americans in the Senate and I don’t think anyone — any U. S. Senator that’s sitting in the Senate right now wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate.
“Feel free to castigate the appointor but don’t lynch the appointor,” Governor Rod Blagojevich said as he left.
* From Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias…
Gov. Blagojevich’s actions today demonstrate an even greater need for the General Assembly to move quickly with impeachment proceedings and remove him from office. The question here is not whether Roland Burris would make a good Senator. The question is whether Blagojevich should have the right to make the appointment.
Regardless of whether he wanted to appoint Mother Theresa or Abraham Lincoln, I believe Blagojevich lost that right when he allegedly attempted to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder. He abused his power and should lose his appointment power. Because of Blagojevich’s actions, the appointment process has been tainted and will continue to be tainted as long as he holds office. In the best interest of the people of Illinois, I encourage Secretary of State White to refuse to certify the appointment.
* The Republicans have no subpoena power. Keep that in mind while reading this…
The minority spokesman on the committee investigating impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich said today he will subpoena the governor’s nominee for U.S. Senate.
State Rep. Jim Durkin, R-82nd, of Western Springs, had asked former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to turn down the governor’s appointment.
“If Mr. Burris decides to accept this appointment, as I assume (he will) against the wishes of the millions of Illinoisans, I feel it is necessary he be compelled to testify before the Special Investigative Committee,” Durkin said.
* From Speaker Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown…
I think I will defer on today’s questions.
Be assured the impeachment process will continue
* Jesse White was just asked about the blatant racial component in Blagojevich’s latest move: “Even though Roland Burris is an African-American, it doesn’t mean that an appointment by a different governor would not be [a black person].”
* Blagojevich video clip blaming everything on the GA…
* From a good friend…
And if this is a race thing, how could [Burris] represent mortgage lenders during the midst of the subprime mess?
Roland Burris has no idea what sort of heat is coming his way. The hostile microscope. The negative, probing press. He’s never had to endure anything like this. He’s a goner, and he has no clue.
* This is the governor’s exact quote which blamed it all on the Illinois General Assembly…
But let me say again, the law requires that the Governor make an appointment of the United States Senator in the absence of any other law that would have given the people of Illinois a chance to be able to elect a successor. And when the legislature didn’t act on the legislation which would have given the people the right to elect the next senator, failing then, it’s the Governor’s responsibility to fill the vacancy.
* Kevin reports from the scene that several African-Americans began shouting questions at Pat Quinn, but were eventually quieted by reporters. “They seemed like lackeys,” Kevin said. Go figure.
Another complication in the selection is that Burris is a registered lobbyist in Illinois and Washington, D.C. His Chicago-based firm, Burris & Lebed, is registered in Springfield to represent clients ranging from Comcast to the Illinois Funeral Directors Association. In 2007, the firm was also registered to represent the Illinois Association of Mortgage Bankers. The firm is registered in both Springfield and Washington to represent MicroSun Technologies LLC, an Illinois-based maker of battery and power supplies.
Burris’ lobbying partner is Fred Lebed, a veteran Democratic political operative who once served as executive director of the Cook County party and has also held a number of state government posts.
Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie said the four examples since 1913 include Democrat Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, who died while a Senate committee was investigating corruption charges against him in 1947; Republican Frank Smith of Illinois, whom the Senate voted against seating due to corruption charges in 1928, and Democrats Henry Clayton and Franklin Glass of Alabama, both of whom withdrew their bids in 1913 after a dispute arose over the governor’s authority to appoint them.
Ritchie also said senators are often seated but then investigated by the chamber’s Rules Committee to determine whether any charges against the senator have merit.
That was the case in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s case, Ritchie noted for example. The Louisiana Democrat won a narrow election in 1996 and was seated while the Rules Committee probed charges of voter fraud before ultimately exonerating Landrieu after 10 months
But Ritchie conceded the Blagojevich situation was different.
“We really haven’t had a case like this,” he said. “There’s just nothing quite comparable.”
* The blatant play to race-baiting on Rush’s part wasn’t unexpected. He’s said pretty much the same for weeks now. But Rush went way beyond that, promising to pressure the Congressional Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus on behalf of this appoitment.
* CNN is now playing up the Jesse White angle. Keep in mind that this is not a state law that requires certification of the Senate choice. It’s a US Senate rule. This may very well stick.
* And, it’s over. Wow.
* Congressman Bobby Rush just said he wanted to “thank God” for this decision to appoint Burris. Laying it on thick. “He’s an esteemed member of this state and of this community… My prayers have been answered.”
* Blagojevich said he was “absolutely confident and certain” that the US Senate would seat Burris. He may be in for a surprise.
* The governor is fillibustering the press with a long statement about how not filling the vacancy would deprive the people of Illinois of full representation in the US Senate.
* Burris said he was called by Blagojevich on Sunday. He had no comment on the governor’s legal status, saying that as a former attorney general he believed in the concept of innocent until proven guilty.
* 1:58 pm - Letter from US Senate Democrats on the pending Blagojevich action…
It is truly regrettable that despite warning from all 50 Democratic senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris’s ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.
Next week we will start one of the most important debates of the year outlining an economic recovery plan to create jobs and invest in America. And in the coming weeks, we will be working to protect homeowners and consumers, make America more energy independent, strengthen our national security, and improve health care and educational opportunities. There is much work to do and a lot at stake. It is thus critical that Illinois and every other state have two seated senators without delay.
We again urge Gov. Blagojevich to not make this appointment. It is unfair to Mr. Burris, it is unfair to the people of Illinois and it will ultimately not stand. The governor must put the interests of the people of Illinois and all Americans first by stepping aside now and letting his successor appoint someone who we will seat.
* 1:58 pm - Jesse White statement…
As I have previously stated publicly, I cannot co-sign a document that certifies any appointment by Rod Blagojevich for the vacant United State Senate seat from Illiois.
Although I have respect for former Attorney General Roland Burris, because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the Governor, I cannot accept the document.
* 12:59 pm - Secretary of State Jesse White’s office says they will not certify the appointment. Certification is required to be seated in the Senate.
* 11:30 am - So much for spending quiet time on the beach. Sources say that Gov. Blagojevich will appoint Roland Burris to the vacant US Senate seat.
Secretary of State Jesse White has said he wouldn’t sign off on any Blagojevich appointment, as is required, but his spokesman could not be reached. I’ll let you know what I hear.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected today to name former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
The action comes despite warnings by Democratic Senate leaders that they would not seat anyone appointed by the disgraced governor who faces criminal charges of trying to sell the post, sources familiar with the decision said.
Shortly after Obama’s Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevich’s arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governor’s support.
Though he is 71, Burris has said that Obama’s replacement should be able to win re-election and he has noted that despite a string of primary losses in races ranging from Chicago mayor to governor and U.S. senator, he’s never lost to a Republican.
* 12:11 pm - A quick check of campaign finance records shows Burris’ consulting company has contributed about $11K to Blagojevich’s campaign fund. The consulting company has benefitted from a bunch of state contracts since then, many of which doing PR work on behalf of IDOT minority contracting efforts.
Blagojevich privately credits Burris with playing a major role in the governor’s 2002 Democratic primary win. Burris took the African-American vote away from Paul Vallas, who was always quite popular in the black community. Blagojevich finished behind Burris and Vallas in Chicago (he barely won his own congressional district), so Burris’ spoiler role was crucial to Blagojevich’s win.
The Senate will not seat Roland Burris if Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attempts to appoint him, a Democratic leadership aide said.
Majority Leader Harry Reid views Burris as “unacceptable,” the aide said.
* 12:38 pm - From the IL GOP…
Statement from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna on Roland Burris Senate Appointment:
“Illinois Republicans were the first to demand Rod Blagojevich have nothing to do with appointing our next United States Senator.
“Because they went back on their word and refused to strip Blagojevich of his appointment power and pass a special election, Illinois Democrats have created yet another constitutional crisis for Illinois.
“Blagojevich Democrat Roland Burris is emblematic of the old-school, pay-to-play culture that has plagued Illinois for generations and this appointment is another embarrassment for the people of Illinois.
“Once again, Blagojevich Democrats have failed the people of Illinois by refusing to strip Rod Blagojevich of his senate appointment power and blocking a vote of the people.”
Federal grand jury subpoenas released Monday by Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration after a long court fight show that a widespread-corruption investigation of state hiring extended even to decisions made before the Democratic governor took office in January 2003.
Now four subpoenas from 2006, made public as the result of a lawsuit the administration lost, shed a little more light on what federal authorities were examining.
The 17 pages of documents show federal investigators sought all personnel records from the governor’s office dating to Jan. 1, 2003, as well as computer records or other backup materials from the governor’s office and more than a dozen state agencies that report to the governor. The subpoenas, written between May and July of 2006, also sought detailed personnel information about 14 people, many of whom were state employees involved in hiring.
The release of the documents is the result of a long court battle waged over a state Freedom of Information Act request filed by the non-profit Better Government Association, which sued two years ago when the administration refused to hand over the subpoenas.
Blagojevich’s lawyer Ed Genson bemoans inability to call witnesses
Genson also told lawmakers they should not take a negative view of Blagojevich’s refusal to appear before them, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination over the criminal charges he faces.
“He has a 5th Amendment right and he’s exercising that,” Genson said of Blagojevich. “Until the United States government tells us what he’s charged with, we choose not to talk about it.”
But comments from Currie and other committee members indicated Blagojevich’s refusal to appear may be one factor as they deliberate.
“We would be happy to have the governor stand up for himself and explain those shadows,” Currie told Genson. And Rep. Lou Lang (D- Skokie) said, “I’d be interested in just having the governor come here and tell the truth once.”
Genson repeatedly said Blagojevich had not “violated the law” and that the panel’s witnesses “have not shown impeachable conduct.”
“There’s nothing in those tapes that says he did anything,” said Genson.
Lawmakers in charge of the impeachment investigation adjourned until they get word on the tapes. Chairwoman Barbara Flynn Currie said the timetable for an impeachment report is now uncertain. Before Monday’s wiretap tape news, she’d said a report could come as soon as next week.
Meanwhile, in making what could end up being closing arguments to the impeachment panel, Genson argued that if the circumstances surrounding Blagojevich’s arrest are stripped away, the impeachment case boils down to a dispute over health-care policy and an ongoing political and personality clash with lawmakers, neither of which rises to an impeachable offense.
“Rod Blagojevich was elected by the people of Illinois,” Genson told members of the impeachment investigation panel.
Impeachment committee chair Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said the panel’s work will be on hold until it learns if, and when, it might obtain the tapes.
“If the judge were to say we will have a briefing schedule in three months’ time, I think probably the committee would decide that we should go back to look at what we already have and make a determination whether that is adequate (to impeach),” Currie said.
If the committee gets the tapes quickly, though, they could provide the final evidence to impeach Blagojevich, she said.
But Genson said there’s no evidence the Democratic governor ever took action to make any of that happen.
“There is nothing in that tape that shows people were asked to give money or campaign contributions or anything. It’s just talk. That’s what it is: unfortunate talk, talk that shouldn’t have been made perhaps, but not action,” Genson said.
A funeral service for state Rep. Wyvetter H. Younge, D-East St. Louis, will be at noon Saturday at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 2235 Bond Avenue in East St. Louis. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery in Fairview Heights.
Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday at Wyvetter Younge Middle School, 3939 Caseyville Avenue in East St. Louis.
Rep. Younge, who was one of the longest serving representatives in the Illinois House and a lifelong resident of East St. Louis, died Friday (Dec. 26, 2008) at Barnes-Jewish Hospital after a brief illness. She was 78.
A southern Illinois lawmaker wants motorists to pay eight cents more for every gallon of gasoline they buy to help pay for a state road construction program.
State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said Monday he will push the proposal when lawmakers reconvene in January. He said he hopes the idea jumpstarts talks about a statewide construction program that has languished over the past several years.
“Obviously, this is not the end of the road by any stretch of the imagination,” Bradley said. “I’m interested to see what people think.”
Bradley’s plan would allow the state to pay for about $7 billion in road construction, leaving out other projects such as prisons and university buildings.
He proposes adding 8 cents per gallon to the state’s gas tax, a 42 percent hike of the current 19-cent state tax. For an average motorist, they’d have to pay 80 cents more for a 10-gallon fill-up.
Emanuel, first elected to the House in 2002, formally announced Monday he would end his House career Jan. 2 to join the Obama administration as White House chief of staff. He was the fourth ranking Democrat in the House, given the post after he ran the political operation that won back control of the House for Democrats in 2006.
He informed residents of his 5th Congressional District, anchored in Chicago’s North and Northwest Side neighborhoods, with robo calls on Monday. Emanuel is on a long-planned vacation to Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, traveling with his wife, Amy, their three children and friends.
Emanuel’s letter makes his departure official — he will not be sworn in to a fourth term when the new Congress convenes Jan. 6, and sets the stage for Blagojevich to call a special election to fill the vacancy. Unlike the Senate seat Obama vacated, filled by gubernatorial appointment, a vacated House seat is filled through a vote. Eleven people have filed statements with the Federal Election Commission that they are mulling a run, with more contestants expected. The Democratic primary front-runners so far (the district is heavily Democratic) are state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), Cook County Board member Mike Quigley and former Transportation Security Administration official Justin Oberman.
Emanuel must decide what to do with the $1,782,189 million in his campaign warchest, of which about $400,000 is a loan he made to his campaign.
Before the state smoking ban went into effect last Jan. 1, many bar and restaurant owners feared that the new law would have a disastrous impact on business.
But revenue figures for 2008 show that sales tax receipts for bars, nightclubs and restaurants increased in the six months after Illinois went smoke-free. Illinois casinos, on the other hand, have seen a double-digit drop in gaming receipts this year.
“At the very least, I think it’s safe to say that [the ban] hasn’t hurt business,” said Barbara De Nekker, a community health specialist with Tobacco Free Lake County.
Anecdotal evidence from Chicago area restaurants and bars shows a mixed bag.
Beginning January 1, Illinois motorists convicted of drunk driving will have to take a breathalizer test in order to start their car. The new law makes all convicted drunk drivers install a device in their car to determine their blood alcohol level. If it’s too high, the car won’t start.
Susan McKinney is with the Secretary of State’s office. She says despite some flaws, the law will be a big deterrent for anyone thinking of driving drunk.
For Illinois Republicans, a hair-thin line separates the sublime from the ridiculous.
They need a political grand slam, but the state GOP is gesturing for a bunt.
With a governor in disgrace and Mayor Richard M. Daley under fire for a stream of rising taxes and fees but depleted city services, Republicans are focusing on a special election for a U.S. Senate seat they have minimal chance of capturing.
Can you say small ball?
It’s time they stopped playing the lovable (I guess) loser role in Illinois and started playing to win.
“Lower fuel prices have been driven down by the fact that the economy is not very strong,” Skaggs said. “On the other hand, it certainly does reduce the cost of living for anybody who has to drive at all.”
The specter of tens of thousands of retail stores being shuttered looms large after holiday retail sales look to be as dismal as predicted, driving up long-held skepticism that America is over-stored.
Four retail analysts — Britt Beemer, Howard Davidowitz, Larry Freed and Michael Niemira — believe retail names will be wiped off the map and thousands of stores will close in the new year.
Davidowitz estimates retailers will shutter 12,000 money-losing stores in 2009; Beemer predicted that half of today’s retailers will be in big trouble — perhaps at risk of shutting down — next year; Freed believes 20 to 40 retail chains will go out of business in the first three months of the new year, and Niemira predicts 73,000 retail locations will close in the first half of 2009.
“People don’t just eat at Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Charles McLimans, executive director of Naperville-based Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry. “I’m very worried about what is going to happen in January and February, which are traditionally our down months.”
McLimans said Loaves and Fishes experienced a 140 percent increase of first-time Naperville clients this November compared to the same time last year. He said overall enrollment in Loaves and Fishes’ programs is up 59 percent from 2007 for the first half of its fiscal year (which started July 1).
Along with job losses, Smith points out that many families also are being hit with growing food prices and transportation costs - something many food pantries are also faced with.
Soon, Pace bus fares will rise to $1.75. That’s an increase of $0.25 to $0.50 per ride. Pace spokesperson Patrick Wilmot says the fare hike is necessary, even though gas prices have fallen in recent months.
WILMOT: You know, the reason for this increase was never solely about fuel. But that said, fuel prices are expected to remain volatile, and we need to try to prepare for what can happen in the coming year.
Another issue, according to Wilmot: the money Pace gets from sales taxes has dropped along with the economy.
The fare increases won’t change the cost of Pace services for people with disabilities. As for the possibility of another fare hike in 2010, Wilmot says it’s way too early to know.
Byrne said a computerized map that tracks work crews and unfilled potholes will speed the patching process and added that an estimated $300,000 in savings from the overtime deal will be crucial in helping the city stay within its $10 million-to-$12 million pothole repair budget.
Still, it may do little to assuage frustrated motorists contending with the city’s pitted arterial streets, made worse by this month’s dramatic shifts between freezing, thawing and rain, a blend of physical process that has formed a worst-case scenario for repair crews.
Facing an enormous backlog now, the city this winter has concentrated on arterial streets and emergency situations—the holes big enough to damage cars. Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers and other city workers have been asked to call in pothole locations. The public has been urged to phone them in to the city’s 311 non-emergency line.